Lance Stroll believes the Racing Point F1 Team is firmly in the battle to top a Formula 1 midfield battle that looks to be very closely contested.
Stroll’s ninth place at the Australian Grand Prix ensured that he scored points on his Racing Point debut, fighting intensely with Alfa Romeo Racing‘s Kimi Räikkönen and the Renault F1 Team‘s Nico Hülkenberg for seventh place in the late stages of the race.
The Canadian also had to keep the Scuderia Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat at bay to maintain his best score since he finished ninth for Williams Racing at the 2018 Italian Grand Prix.
Stroll called the pressure-filled race a “challenging afternoon”, but revelled in turning around a lacklustre qualifying position of sixteenth to score points.
“I am really pleased with my race today, it has been a great day at the office,” said Stroll.
“It’s really nice to pick up some points on the first weekend of the season, but it wasn’t easy – [I was] chasing Hülkenberg and Räikkönen ahead of me while also keeping Kvyat and [Pierre] Gasly behind me for most of the race.
“I was under a lot of pressure and it was very tight, but I am glad we managed to pick up two points.”
Stroll revealed that Racing Point planned a long first stint on the medium tyres in order to gain track position – a crucial factor around Albert Park.
At the time of his pitstop for a set of hard tyres on lap 30, Stroll ran as high as sixth and managed to leapfrog past McLaren F1 Team rookie Lando Norris, Gasly, Kvyat and Racing Point team-mate Sergio Pérez.
“We were always planning to go long with our strategy,” Stroll explained.
“We were starting out of position so we knew the key was to make a good start and gain some places in the opening stages, which we did.
“After that, we had good pace and managed to hold off the cars behind us on softer tyres than ours.”
The 19-year-old said that although the midfield battle is set to be even tighter than last year, Racing Point is in with a chance of reclaiming the fourth place in the Constructors’ Championship that it surrendered last year – partly due to the points exclusion that doomed the team in its previous Force India guise.
“We saw today that it’s going to be really close in the middle of the grid, but we are definitely in the fight.”